ORKNEY is looking into whether it can loosen ties with Scotland and the UK , or become independent in the wake of Brexit it has emerged.

Thirteen councillors making up the majority of the 21 elected representatives of the island's only local authority have for the first time forced an investigation into whether greater autonomy or self-determination would benefit the group of 70 islands at a time of constitutional uncertainty within the UK and in Europe.

The examination is being made in the context of what it is described as future national or international constitutional changes.

In the EU referendum Orkney was the first Scottish area to declare and with a turnout of 68.4 percent Remain won with 63 percent to Leave’s 37 percent.


Orkney also voted against Scottish independence by 67 percent to 33 percent.

A motion passed by the council says that the chief executive should compile a report which considers "whether the people of Orkney could exercise self-determination if faced with further national or international constitutional changes, or indeed to decide if more autonomy might be beneficial for the wellbeing of Orkney..."

It says it should also explore what engagement would be required to "consider such opportunities for greater autonomy or self-determination" with both the UK and Scottish Government.

The report is expected to be produced to councillors in February.

It is the first time such an investigation has been undertaken by the council, despite there being previous concerns about implications for both Orkney and Shetland before the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum.

Island residents have traditionally been extremely hostile to Scottish independence and preferred Westminster government to that from Holyrood. They were part of Norway, not Scotland, until the late 15th century.

It has emerged that a group of campaigners from Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles failed in a bid to Scottish Parliament for a referendum that could grant them independence from Scotland on the grounds that they were all historically part of Norway.

Two years ago, before the Scottish Independence referendu a petition  collected some 1,177 in support of their proposal. But it was rejected by MSPs and the petition was closed.


In 2012, MSPs for Orkney and Shetland made a submission to the Government’s consultation on the independence referendum warning the islands could opt to remain part of the UK even if the rest of Scotland votes to separate.

Alternatively, the submission said, its residents may choose to join a separate Scotland in return for a much larger share of oil and gas revenues from their waters or even declare independence themselves.

An opt-out clause was negotiated in the failed Scottish devolution referendum of 1979, which the islanders opposed.

Graham Sinclair, who drafted the new motion said Brexit and the possibility of a second Scottish Independence referendum had a "significant impact" on the decision.

"We are the smallest local authority in Scotland. I believe in grass roots democracy. I think the islands are more significantly different both historically and culturally from the rest of the country and I think, why should we not explore if there is any opportunities that might be there at a time of uncertainty," he said.

"It is a very preliminary shot. It is to consider whether there is the possibility of constitutional changes... whether there is an opportunity for the people to have a direct voice in their future and to look at whether more autonomy for the island might in certain circumstances might be useful.


"We want to have the options discussed and debated without a preconceived outcome."

He said they should look at how other islands in the British Isles conduct their affairs and that a form of opinion poll might be conducted to gauge what Orkney people think.

"I don't have any preconceptions about where it might lead," he said. "My motion was accepted without anyone speaking against it and we are a council of independent councillors.

"I think the reason everyone accepted it was because it was felt it would be a worthwhile process to find out what opportunities might be there."

Orkney and Shetland were both controlled by Norway from the 9th century until they were transferred to the Scottish King James III in 1468 and 1472 respectively.

The Western Isles were transferred to the Kingdom of Scotland in 1266 as part of the Treaty of Perth with Norway.